The wildebeest yawns and stretches.
His yellow eyes scan the dark stalks of dry grass
around his bed of matted vegetation.
A dim flower, crushed, peeks
from beneath his rump.
Above him, the few late stars are begging to go home.
The wildebeest, let’s call him Carl,
picks out the constellation Oncorhynchus, leaping over the crow.
He notes that one of the stars, kraz, or the left-handed lynchpin,
which represents the gills of the great fish,
has already packed her bags for Rome,
leaving a gap in the formation.
Of course, Carl reminds himself,
that’s only from my point of view.
Limited as that is.
Still, he thinks, I wish it were, well, you know,
Carl thinks of himself as a Connochaetes taurinus taurinus,
or Blue Wildebeest. But of this he is mistaken.
Ignorant of his true nature, he shakes his head and stands,
snorts into the dirt, slaps his rump with his short, ragged tail,
steps out onto the savannah from beneath the tree he’d chosen
to sleep under for the night.
Off to the east, the sky begins to pinken, like the shoulders
of a little girl too long at the shore.
I wish I still had that book of poems, Carl thinks,
as he chews this day’s first mouthful of grass.
It is a rare event to find a book on the savannah,
so it was a big deal to him. He carried the book with him
everywhere he went for a month. Until the rains came,
and the book disintegrated, the pages drifting off in runnels
of rainwater, whole chapters setting sail in gully washers.
The spine the last to go.
Carl ate that.
You know, Carl says, I liked that book a great deal.
Yes, Carl, I know, says God.
Well, why’d you take it from me, then?
I wasn’t finished with it. Carl stomps his right forefoot
into the dirt, petulantly.
I didn’t take it from you, Carl. It got wet. It fell apart.
That is the nature of things.
God looks off towards Rome, sees that kraz
has made it home safely.
Oh, don’t start with me, Carl says. Don’t start in again with
‘The Nature of Things’. Give me a break.
No, really. I suppose you’ll tell me
that giving Lupus to Anna Nicole Smith and Asthma
to Brad Pitt is just ‘the nature of things,’ too.
You make me sick.
Don’t forget giving Russell Crowe osteoporosis, God chuckled.
I thought that one up myself.
Yeah, well. It just goes to show you.
Carl looked around and took another mouthful of grass.
The fish have got you all figured out, you know?
You are a braggart and a moron. I mean,
what were you thinking letting that Leonardo fellow
paint that Mona Lisa?
Ah, but I was right, Carl. They never figured it out.
Carl snorted. You got lucky.
I am the All-being, Carl. I don’t get lucky.
And the whole deal with those poets.
Rilke, Yeats, that Whitman fellow.
Treading on thin ice if you ask me.
Ah, yes. The poets. God beamed.
The temperature on the savannah rose eleven degrees in two seconds.
They do please me.
You’re gonna blow the whole deal if you keep that up, you ask me.
Have a little faith, Carl. Perhaps if they do figure it out,
they deserve a shot.
Humph. Carl trots across the grassland toward the river.
His paltry mane lifts and taps against his massive neck.
He snorts and shakes his head again for the sheer joy of it.
He picks up speed.
You be careful, Carl. God says, smoting a village
in Kazakstan with a new and deadly virus.
You remember what happened to your brother.
But Carl will hear nothing of it.
He runs with ever greater speed, barreling across the savannah
like a bullet train. His legs churn up the hard-packed dirt
and he smells the river growing closer.
Ahead of him a line of brush marks the water’s edge.
He puts his head down.
Maybe I shouldn’t have let him read that Mary Oliver after all,
God thought to himself.
Carl reaches the cliff edge and leaps into the void above the muddy water.
He stretches out to his full length. His yellow eyes burn.